Worst Opening Day performance ever?

Sure, maybe there have been one or two pitchers surrender double-digit runs in extremely brief outings. Maybe a batter or two has gone 0-for-7 in a 15-inning contest. Maybe a closer (John Axford?) has coughed up a big lead to blow what seemed to be a certain victory. But did anyone’s first-game performance ever fall further below expectations than Albert Pujols‘ stinker of a game Thursday?

After going 4-for-5 with two home runs, three RBI and four runs scored in last season’s opening-game victory in Cincinnati against the division rival Reds, Pujols flopped superbly this year. Not only did he go 0-for-5, he left five men on base and grounded into a career-worst three double plays. That’s right, five at-bats resulting in eight outs.

The details are even more gruesome. Pujols popped up in the first following Colby Rasmus‘ one-out triple that would have put the Cardinals ahead early. (Matt Holliday bailed the team out with a run-scoring single.) Pujols next grounded into his first double play with two on and no out in the third, and another twin killing off his bat finished the fifth.

With the score tied 2-2 in the eighth, Pujols merely flew out to center. (Holliday followed with a go-ahead shot to center that squeaked over the wall.) And Pujols got another undesired two-for-one with a 6-4-3 DP in the 10th, shortly before San Diego won the game with two runs in the 11th.

Sure, one game means virtually nothing, but no one would have expected Pujols to be last in the majors in WAR, VORP, WARP, Win Shares, EqA and any other advanced metric you care to name. (Actually, his standing in these categories has not been verified, but how could anyone be trailing him?)

A 3-for-4 second game with a homer and a couple key RBI would pretty much erase everyone’s memory of Thursday, but for someone seeking $30 million a year for the next decade, this was quite the inauspicious start to the season.

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  1. jeffrey gross said...

    Zambrano’s 2010 opening day = -.625 WPA
    Pujols’ 2011 opening day = -.430 WPA

    Ramon Hernandez? +.929 WPA!

  2. Anna McDonald said...

    Although a horrible game this was a great article Greg. On the bright side … Tony LaRussa is being sued by former players. He found out yesterday after the game.

  3. Greg Simons said...

    While I did allude to an awful outing by an SP, I didn’t expect it to have been so recently.

    Also, I’m on the fence about WPA.  While I think it’s very informative to see the impact of each individual play, I question a stat that can be made to show Jack Morris’ Game Seven start in 1991 being worth something like a gazillion WPA.

  4. Mitch said...

    Obviously (I think) this article was written with tongue in cheek, but I’ve never liked WPA as a stat either. It’s always been a “so what” stat. Comparing WPA of Pujols to Ramon Hernandez tells us… absolutely nothing. Dude went 0-5 on a cold March day. He’ll still get his gazillions.

    I bet Joe Morgan would love WPA.

  5. Greg Simons said...

    @Acme: Clearly, he’s done.  A $1 ballplayer at most.

    @Neuter: (nice nickname).  Lyon wanted to join the failed-closer movement already so prevalent this season, and he wanted to up the ante.  Eek, ack, and ugh!

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